Just give

We all know somebody who is raising money for charity these days, be it a sponsored triathlon, skydive or pie eating world record. It can be overwhelming to constantly receive requests for donations. I get it. But there are reasons you should donate.

1) These people clearly feel so strongly about a cause they are willing to go through pain, dedicated training workouts, losing their social life and risking injury to help others. Anyone who has that amount of compassion and belief in the work of an organisation should be respected and supported in their efforts.

2) They don’t ask for millions. With the wonders of Gift Aid, even a few pounds can raise even more than you give for their cause. A donation of £10 will give their charity £12.50, and this increases with every penny you give. So it’s not even going to cost you as much as they will get. If a person has fifty friends who all donate a couple of pounds, that’s easily over a hundred quid right there. And for charity, one hundred quid can feel like a million dollars.

3) People work hard for their cause because of their backstory. Maybe a family member has cancer, or they are outspoken victims of abuse, or they are a teacher who can see what poverty really does to children. Someone prepared to put in the hours of toil it takes to train for a marathon isn’t doing it on a whim: they have been affected in some way by the cause they are raising awareness for, and your support shows they are not alone. It isn’t only about money: it is about solidarity, about showing someone you care.

4) They are doing this because the people they love can’t do it themselves. Think about all those triathletes competing in support of their mother with breast cancer, or their grandfather with Alzheimer’s. As much as people seem to think raising money for charity is, these days, an ego boost of the highest order, it’s not. They feel helpless to do anything about the things affecting someone they love, so they show their support by finding ways to fund the people who CAN help. Macmillan nurses, research scientists, carers, safe houses – they all need funding and the government doesn’t stretch out its limited funds that far.

5) The government is crap. Services which should be supported by public money – such as research into heart disease, lung disease and all the other major killers of the population – are not, yet they are vital to the discovery of cures (*insert conspiracy theory here about keeping the population to manageable levels*). The government can’t even work out a way to support our mighty-yet-failing NHS; how are they going to cope with all of these major issues? They simply can’t. Charities step in where the government fails – it’s a sad fact. (Some charities, such as Women’s Aid or similar, should be independent of government anyway – but that’s for another post altogether). You might feel angry your tax isn’t going to these causes, or you might feel relieved. Either way, one day you WILL be affected by one of these major issues either directly or indirectly, and when that time comes you’re going to wish there had been more investment in research for a cure.

There are several charities close to my heart. But for now, where I’m asking directly for your support, I post just one link. A lady I’ve never met is taking part in a triathlon in May and her goal is admirable, achievable and downright inspiring. There, I said it, that word that everyone takes with a pinch of salt whenever put into the same sentence as ‘charity’. But I could never run a triathlon. I’d be lucky if I could run for the bus. I salute her ambition. A friend of a friend, she is participating in this run, swim and cycle challenge to raise money for Breast Cancer Care. If you can, donate whatever change you have spare – just like Tesco, Every Little Helps. http://bit.ly/141weLZ

Other charities worth a look to support include:

http://www.arthritiscare.org.uk/Home

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx

http://www.nationalbrainappeal.org/

http://www.womensaid.org.uk/

http://www.yorkagainstcancer.org.uk/

And there are literally hundreds of others you could help. You might not want to run a marathon, but there are people out there who do – I urge you to find some compassion and give whatever you can, whenever you can. There is always somebody more in need than you are, and one day you might need someone to help you back.

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Why I don’t write

Most people stop writing when they run out of things to say. I am the opposite. I stop writing when my own thoughts overwhelm me, and no manner of to-do lists or diagrams or post-it notes or flashcards or mindmaps will sort out the noise going on.

I don’t stop writing because I can’t write. I stop writing because there is so much to say, I wonder when people will get bored of listening. I want to write about moving house, about health, about dating, about work, about friends, about general life philosophies. But when I sit to write, it all comes out in a jumbled mess. I don’t suffer from writer’s block: I suffer from lexical diarrhoea.

Often it’s been commented that people think I live ‘in my head’ more than the real world. And then they seem surprised when I don’t disagree with them, instead nodding emphatically in the hope that might dislodge one of the many thoughts stuck somewhere in the parietal lobe.

It’s no bad thing, not living in the real world too much. I’m not totally head-bound, I mean, I can make a cup of tea and hold down a job, so am not doing too badly. But just as some people read escapist literature, or watch a film, I just think. I like to wonder ‘what if?’ on ridiculous scales. I like to tell myself that this is how all great literature began. This is, probably, an example of ‘head-living’ that is not so beneficial. I like to stay in my head. Which means the ideas don’t get down on paper. Tolkien may have taken decades, but he damn well wrote all the time.

My life – as most people’s – is full of excuses. But I guess this post is yet one more – simply to reassure you that I’m still here. There are works in progress. But if I let these grand ideas fall out unedited, it might scare the world away. Or probably get me locked in the loony bin, at least.

I guess my entire mind is a work in progress. But for now, there are things to be getting on with. I have a chalkboard to buy, for these post-its, mindmaps, notebooks and alphabetti spaghetti just aren’t cutting it…

‘Buzz’ off

I found myself apologising recently (it happens often). But then I had to go back and think on why I was apologising. Had I done something wrong? Nope. Had I offended someone with my oft-ill thought out views? Nu’uh.

So why was I saying sorry?

I was defending the fact I have really short hair.

Yup.

I was trying to explain to a lady that I am a femme lesbian – I like long hair, paint my nails and wear makeup. I own dresses and am learning how to dress for curves. (Turns out miniskirts are not the way to go when your thighs are the size of most women’s waists…why did nobody tell me this?). But she was insistent on the hair issue – if I was femme, why do I have a buzz cut?

I tried to explain that it all fell out because of medication. But then it became some kind of confessional – I don’t want potential dates to necessarily know I’ve been ill. They don’t need to know that straight off the bat, and when they do there is often the reaction of  ‘Oh. Well… so anyway yeah when I was on this date last week…’ and they slip through my fingers.

I’m not ashamed of being ill. But I don’t see why it should define me. If I want to go out and have a bit of fun, why should I be paranoid about revealing the heavy doses of chemo I’ve been facing? People don’t know how to deal with it, and it becomes awkward. Either they ask lots and lots of questions, turning a potential date into a research session, or they can’t deal with it, make their excuses and leave.

Hello? There’s more to me than chemo, you know.

Song for a friend(s) (OK a letter, but still…)

My dear hearts,

The Big Move is in process: leaving the capital of the UK to go to the other end of the country where I know nobody, because I fell in love with a city. Recent life challenges have taught me to take every opportunity I can. And you my friends have given me nothing but absolute support.

To the girl who has become a library companion despite our differences in religion: telling me you stopped praying for me should have shattered my heart with disappointment. But when you told me it was because you knew I didn’t need your prayers anymore, because this world will fall at my feet and the heavens are willing me on, well. I don’t care what our religious differences are: your words were the best parting gift I could have received.

To my friend I’ve known since preschool, your words are kept private in my soul but I can promise you this: I will take your heart and wrap it in the finest layers of tissue paper to place it in the box marked Fragile. It will be safe with me, and I am honoured to have the knowledge you are with me regardless of where we are in the world.

To my housemates: I couldn’t have stumbled my way through the last year without you. But man am I looking forward to not having to watch football anymore.

To my colleagues: sorry, you’re not rid of me that easily. Benefits of being a writer: you can work from anywhere in the world. Hello, Skype.

To the more than forty people who turned up over the course of my leaving drinks: crawling home at 7am was a new record. It was an amazing send-off and I was truly touched by how many of you came to say goodbye.

To the friend who sent me the lyrics for Song for a Friend by Jason Mraz: all I can do is say them back to you:

Well you’re magic he said
But don’t let it all go to your head
Cuz I bet if you all had it all figured out
Then you’d never get out of bed
No doubt
Of all the things that I’ve read what he wrote me
Is now sounding like the man I was hoping
To be
I keep on keeping it real
Cause it keeps getting easier, he’ll see
He’s the reason that I’m laughing
Even if there’s no one else
He said, you’ve got to love yourself

You say, you shouldn’t mumble when you speak
But keep your tongue up in your cheek
And if you stumble onto something better remember that it’s humble that you seek
You got all the skill you need,
Individuality
You got something
You call it gumption
You call it anything you want
Because when you play the fool now
You’re only fooling everyone else
You’re learning to love yourself

Yes you are

There’s no price to pay
When you give and what you take,
That’s why it’s easy to thank you
You…

Let’s say take a break from the day
And get back to the old garage
Because life’s too short anyway
But at least it’s better than average
As long as you got me
And I got you
You know we’ll got a lot to go around
I’ll be your friend
Your other brother
Another love to come and comfort you
And I’ll keep reminding
If it’s the only thing I ever do
I will always love
I will always love you
Yes you
I will always, always, always, always love
I will always, always love
I will always, always love, love

Climb up over the top.
Survey the state of the soul.
You’ve got to find out for yourself whether or not you’re truly trying.
Why not give it a shot?
Shake it. Take control and inevitably wind up
Find out for yourself all the strengths you have inside of you.

To the person who knows who they are: without you, I would not be here. And I promise I’ll do everything I can to show it’s been worth the grind.

And now, for the move. Bring it.

With my forever gratitude at knowing such compassionate beings,

Evelyn

xxx

You be trippin’…no, really.

I kept hold of this one until I found it funny. At the time, it was mortifying, but now I see the funny side…

So, something they don’t tell you about some chemo drugs is that they can have an effect on your brain. In other words, you be trippin’ balls. It doesn’t always happen, and you might not even notice it if it’s a slight distortion of reality – maybe you think you see a shadow from the corner of your eye or something – but sometimes it’s just unavoidable.

The only time this really affected me was on what seemed to be a benign trip to the supermarket. Suddenly, the numbers on the price tags got all jumbled. Then they peeled off the shelf, which preceded to also melt in front of my eyes. Moving to the next aisle, because the sight of liquefying bacon was disturbing me, I realised the entire shop was melting into a river below my feet. Price tags floated by, eggs bobbed along, and I was going to drown.

So I reached for the paddle in front of me. I was standing on a small raft – as you do – and realised I needed to punt to safety. Faces came at me, like three dimensional Dali paintings, and I heard voices. I realised these were people who would also drown if they didn’t come aboard. So I tried to help them. When they didn’t want to come on board, I left them and continued to paddle.

The world eventually solidified again.

I had been punting down the bread aisle with a French loaf. Apparently, it is Not OK to punt your tripping raft down a supermarket aisle with an oversized baguette. What a waste of 80p; I couldn’t even eat the loaf they made me buy, as my attempts at steering to safety had made the loaf mere crumbs.

I only wish I could see the CCTV of these poor supermarket workers trying to ask if I was OK and telling me to put the bread down. I lucked out with the GP surgery being directly opposite the supermarket and someone having the sense to go and grab a doctor – who happened to be the same doctor who has been seeing me regularly because of said medication. The doctor confirmed I wasn’t tripping on anything illegal and I was let free (after purchasing useless bread and the imposing of an unspoken ban on my return for fear of creating a reputation for the supermarket being a crazy magnet).

Next time, I might just take some ecstasy and keep the same doc on speed dial (oh look, unintended pun right there. Gotta love those) to bail me out of my wired trips on the same excuse…yeah….

Kids: Don’t do chemo. It messes with your head.

Social media and writing, part 2

Dear authors,

I am not just interested in your latest book. Please interact with me and others on Twitter without always telling me that you have a latest release. Sometimes, yes, that’s fine. But don’t litter my feed with constant self-promotion.

Cheers,

Evelyn

Having been launched into the world of Twitter, and since my last post about creating an online platform for writers, this has been my number one pet peeve. In fact, it’s more a pet peeve because these people always seem to have tons of followers, while I tirelessly plug away at creating my ‘brand’ – ie personality representation online – and have not so many followers. (If you’re feeling so inclined… @EvelynRoseFict).

This seems backwards to me. I thought the whole point of having an online presence was to create interest not just in your work, but to engage with others in the industry, other people and generally interact. I don’t know anyone who enjoys blatant marketing like that. Do you?

The other reason this has annoyed me is because I’m verging on Twitter addiction. (See Obsessions). But this isn’t quite so bad as an obsession because it’s sociable. That’s what I keep telling myself and that’s the story I’m sticking to thankyoupleaseverymuch.

I am genuinely interested in other writers and what they have to say – even from a purely selfish point of view where I can see if my work really does have a market niche or is already being done by others. The research aspect of online communities is vital; but in doing my research I’d like to speak to more people who are interested in more than just self-promotion. Of course, I speak with exceptions here – there are some great, interactive and engaged writers and forums out there – but come on. How am I going to buy your book when all I know about it is how amazing you think it is?

And now, I realise I have turned full circle (technically 180 degrees but let’s skim over that, numbers aren’t my thing – I’m a writer, daahling). I’ve gone from not understanding the point of social media to realising why it is so important in this technology age: screen out the nutters and bad conversationalists (if you can’t hold an online conversation how have you written a good book?) and welcome in the engaged, intelligent, talented people who are there. Really, they are, I promise. You just have to dredge through the rubbish to find them…

The writer, the writing and the audience

Stumbling into my first forays into online writing, it’s been an interesting month. Most striking has been the impact of social interaction online as dependent on whether people engage with your work or not. It’s all very well writing a blog, but if nobody reads it, what is it for?

It strikes me as strange how authors need to increasingly become ‘public’ figures, having blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It used to be that the publishing house did all the legwork – for better or worse, until the dawn of e-publishing and the growth of the internet, this did the trick. It kept a wall between writer, writing and audience which now has to be deconstructed if people are ever to engage with your work.

But that strikes me as slightly odd. An actor is known for their different roles and, while tabloids do take interest in their personal lives, they would never (mostly never) read into the personal life of an actor within a role they played. Exceptions include, for example, openly gay actors who take on gay roles and freely comment in interviews with the press that they took on the role at least in part because they could identify with it on a ‘deeper level’.

But the reason I took so long to set up a blog – despite having had short stories published regularly since the age of 14 (a slightly-depressing-almost-12-years-ago) – was that people seem to increasingly prescribe what they know about the author to the fiction they produce. Despite my huge agreement with Roland Barthes, who was right long before the dawn of the web, it feels like I am one of a few remaining in this school of thought.

I write as characters. I am not a seventy year old man waiting to die. I am not a six year old girl who has finally learned to tie her shoelaces (mainly because I still struggle with this). I am not a transgender vampire who aspires to Broadway (storyline tbc…). But I write under pseudonyms, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that people will look for the ‘me’ parts in a story. They expect me to throw in clues about my life. It’s like Orson Scott Card becoming the latest Superman author – the massive backlash is because he is notoriously anti-gay. But is he going to make Superman homophobic? No, because his art – and the control DC Comics have over it – is separate from him.

I write stories. They are fiction. Make-believe. While I prefer realist fiction, some of it is sci-fi, some fantasy, some historical, some futuristic. That doesn’t mean I have a time machine (unless you count Wikipedia) or that I am a science fiction geek (still haven’t watched Episodes 4,5, and 6).

So it seems so odd to me that I have to generate interest in my fiction by putting myself, as a brand, as a person, out there. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to remain incredibly secretive – indeed if you read any other post on this blog you’ll see that’s me laying my soul bare – but creating the interest around me as a person in order to create interest in the stories I write baffles me.

I can’t help but feel this post isn’t quite finished. But I need to percolate the remaining thoughts into something more coherent. I lost my essay writing skills shortly after leaving uni (and seems the Masters isn’t doing much to help).